Natural Disasters

Big jump seen in hurricane related storm surges

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 18, 2013   View Article

Massive hurricanes that push piles of seawater city-blocks inland when they howl ashore will increase dramatically as the planet continues to warm, according to a new study.

“It is pretty clear” that climate change must affect hurricane activity “somehow,” Aslak Grinsted, a climate scientist at the University of Copenhagen, told NBC News. “But it is not clear exactly how.”

The science of sinkholes: Common, but rarely catastrophic

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 1, 2013   View Article

A Florida man is missing after an apparent sinkhole opened in his bedroom in the middle of the night, sucking him and his bed deep into the earth. As frightening as it sounds, sinkholes happen all the time, according to geologists. Usually, though, they are slow-motion processes that can take years.

Sinkholes of the sort that swallowed the Florida man form when slightly acidic groundwater dissolves limestone or similar rock that lies beneath the soil creating a large void or cavities. When the overlying ceiling can no longer support the weight of the soil and whatever is on top of it, the earth collapses into the cavity.

Drought Reaches New Orleans; Hurricane Isaac Could Add Insult to Injury

Publication:   Date: August 24, 2012   View Article

New Orleans may be the victim of a one-two punch as Hurricane Isaac threatens to strengthen over the Gulf of Mexico and the ongoing effects of this summer’s drought continue to trickle down to the Delta.

The record temperatures and lack of rain that have devastated crops in America’s heartland upstream also have weakened the once-mighty Mississippi River’s defenses against saltwater intrusion.

Freshwater flowing south from the Mississippi and salty water from the Gulf are constantly arm wrestling for territory in the Mississippi River Delta, where the river dumps into the sea. But as dry weather shrinks the Mississippi, the Gulf is gaining ground, pushing more saltwater inland. At risk is New Orleans’ freshwater supply.

Solar trucks provide electricity in Sandy’s wake

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 16, 2012   View Article

In the Sandy-ravaged Rockaway Beach neighborhood of New York, a 10-year-old truck outfitted with 256-square feet of solar panels is a working example of how cities can prepare for superstorms of the future.

The truck, Rolling Sunlight, is one of several mobile solar generators deployed in the region as part of the Solar Sandy coalition of solar companies and nonprofits that have banded together to provide residents and relief workers with electricity.

Giant inflatable plug could protect subways from floodwaters

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 5, 2012   View Article

A giant inflatable plug that can be filled with 35,000 gallons of water at a moment’s notice could have prevented some of the flooding that crippled New York City’s transit in the wake of Sandy, according to an expert working on the technology.

This isn’t a case of Monday-morning quarterbacking. The technology is still in the lab. But the impact of this month’s superstorm on transit and the possibility that it’s a harbinger of things to come has focused attention on adding the plugs to the disaster-response toolbox.

Smarter electric grids could help us weather stormy future

Publication: NBC News   Date: October 30, 2012   View Article

As of Tuesday morning, Sandy was blamed for power outages affecting more than 8 million people. Although of little help to people in the dark today, so-called smart-grid technologies being installed around the country will make the electric grid more resilient to future storms, according to an industry expert.

One caveat: “It is economically unfeasible to storm-proof your system, and by storm-proof I mean resilient to anything that could happen,” Dean Oskvig, president of engineering consulting firm Black & Veatch’s global energy business, told NBC News Tuesday.

Ready for extreme weather? IBM – yes, IBM – can help

Publication: NBC News   Date: August 9, 2012   View Article

On June 28, if anyone in the greater Washington D.C. area ran a weather-modeling service called Deep Thunder, they would have known a derecho windstorm was about to rip trees from the ground, knock out power and leave millions of people stifling in relentlessly sticky heat.

No one did.

As a result, millions of people suffered for days on end as utilities scrambled to restore electricity. Many businesses were idled through the Fourth of July holiday. Untold millions in wages and revenue were lost. At least 13 people died.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach